What is Actually in Chicken Nuggets?

Image Credit: Jacob Enos / Flickr. This image has been modified.

What is Actually in Chicken Nuggets?

In a scathing expose of the USDA’s new meat inspection program, the Washington Post quoted a representative from the meat inspectors union, who said:

“pig processing lines may be moving too quickly to catch tainted meat… Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses. Not small bits, but chunks.”

What about the other white meat?

In the video, Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets, you can see an infographic the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine created to highlight what they consider to be the five worst contaminants in chicken products. In their investigation of retail chicken products in ten U.S. cities, they found fecal contamination in about half the chicken they bought at the store. But with all the focus on what’s in chicken products, we may have lost sight on what may be missing—such as actual chicken.

Researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Baptist Medical Center recently published an “autopsy” of chicken nuggets in the American Journal of Medicine. The purpose was to determine the contents of chicken nuggets from two national food chains. Because chicken nuggets are popular among children, the researchers thought that parents should know more about what they may be feeding to their kids.

The nugget from the first restaurant was composed of approximately 50% skeletal muscle, with the remainder composed primarily of fat, blood vessels and nerves, and generous quantities of skin or gut lining and associated supportive tissue. The nugget from the second restaurant was composed of approximately 40% skeletal muscle with lots of other tissues, including bone.

“I was floored,” said the lead investigator. “I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope.” I profile some of those other pathology reports in my videos Whats in a Burger? and What Is Really in Hot Dogs?

The researchers concluded that since actual chicken meat was not the predominant component of either nugget, the term “chicken” nugget was really a misnomer.

If we’re going to eat something chicken-ish that isn’t chicken meat, why not truly boneless chicken: Chicken vs. Veggie Chicken.

More on fecal contamination of chicken in Fecal Bacteria Survey, of fish in Fecal Contamination of Sushi, and of pork in Yersinia in Pork. How can that be legal? See Salmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly But Not Illegal.

More on the preservatives in chicken in Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola and antibiotic contamination in Drug Residues in Meat.

Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens also build up in poultry in particular, something the Physicians Committee also tested for previously: Fast Food Tested for Carcinogens.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

18 responses to “What is Actually in Chicken Nuggets?

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  1. My family doctor has me taking B12 pills and the pills are leading to bad side effects. We’ve tried some different brands and formulas but the pills and shots have been a drag. Are there any genetic tests she can prescribe where I can accurately test the MTHFR to find out if that is the issue here? That all seems overwhelming and confusing. Surely there is a solution to this mess but my doctor is not fluent in the genetic compartment of testing this stuff.

    1. Soil-based B12 supplements (‘LifeGive B12 Forte’ is a good brand) and AFA blue-green algae (E3Live.com) would both be extremely beneficial for you. AFA has been scientifically linked to higher B12 levels. You want to avoid all synthetic B12’s and go for the living soil-based B12. B12, after all, is a living soil-based organism that was historically found in soil so we’d get it from foods but modern-day agricultural and environmental pollution has contaminated the soil so bad that B12 in most areas has been killed off.

      1. I wonder if these products contain B12 analogues? Blue-green algae is known to contain an
        analogue version of B12, not real B12. Have you confirmed with company that this is a safe
        and effective method of B12, in these particular supplements?

        1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20108213 – “Compared to the control period, in the intervention period participants improved their vitamin B12 status, significantly reducing Hcy blood concentration (p=0.003). In conclusion, the Klamath algae product AFA-B12 appears to be, in a preliminary study, an adequate and reliable source of vitamin B12 in humans”. I believe there is another study somewhere regarding AFA improving B12, but I cannot find it at the moment.
          RobF, I was under the impression that B12 was a living bacteria (an organism lol), do you have information regarding the true nature of this vitamin?

          1. Lots of the B12 in many algae’s is unusable, but a small percentage is in some of them. However, even that small percentage is enough to make a huge impact because there’s so much of it. You also have to make sure you have lots of probiotics in your gut so you can fully absorb and utilize not only B12 but all nutrients.

      2. And even B12 analogues will raise serum B12 levels, only real B12 will lower homecysteine and methylmalonic acid, giving the best indication if the B12 is real or an analogue (like the analogue B12 in blue-green algae).

      3. Very informative, and i agree, but B12 is not an organsim, it is the byproduct of bacteria. We (humans in general) contain this bacteria that produces B12, but i believe it is not absorbable because it is towards the end of the colon where we absorb little to none of the actual B12.

  2. This blog article is even more distressing when you realize that children are the primary consumers of “chicken nuggets.” This fake food is marketed to children and most parents think that they are feeding their kids a nice protein rich food. When you think about how much fried chicken nuggets and French fries kids eat, it is frightening.

  3. fat, blood vessels and nerves, and generous quantities of skin or gut lining and associated supportive tissue

    But are they composed of chicken fat, chicken blood vessels and nerves, and chicken skin and gut linings/supportive tissue? If so, then it’s still legally a “chicken” nugget.

    1. and there come the nutrician to tell us about the MARVELOUS benefits of fat, nerves etc.

      Didn’t chicken ad says “proteins blabla”. there is no proteins in fats ;).

  4. Horrible. How can they sell this junk to kids? I’ve never eaten a chicken nugget in my life. I can tell just by looking at them, that they are not made of chicken!

  5. is ANYTHING we eat really what it claims to be? Maybe a cure for cancer, etc. is right in front of our eyes ?(mouths?)/ esiste QUALCOSA che mangiamo che e’ veramente quello che ci fanno credere? Forse una cura per cancro, ecc. e’ proprio davanti agli occhi? (bocche?)

    1. A carott is still a carrot, + acetic acid traces because of the fermentation ongoing since start, + a bit a bacterias from earth that we get rid of by peeling them.

      There ? a rotting flesh with shit over it because of the processing worth less than carrot :3.

  6. A misleading article. The nuggets are indeed chicken, they are just not parts of the chicken that are healthiest (or most appetizing) to eat. No need to skew the information and create the impression that this site is overly biased; I would hope your readers are smart enough to figure out that it is not in their best interest to consume chicken nuggets anyway.

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